Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.
Written and directed by Garth Jennings
Featuring the voices of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Bono
Classification G; 110 minutes
Opens in theatres Dec. 22
Given that the possibility of attending any live concerts or musical shows seems dubious at best for the foreseeable future, my two kids and I were quite taken by Sing 2 and its powerhouse performances. This sequel features Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), the koala with a can-do spirit, and his band of musical theatre loving animal friends, putting on a show that aspires to be – in theme and title – Out Of This World!
Cast your minds back five years ago, and you will remember the ever intrepid Buster trying to save his struggling theatre by any means possible. A misprinted ad for a singing contest brings crowds of hopefuls to an audition, including the shy elephant Meena (Tori Kelly), housewife pig Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), punk rocker porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson) and teen rebel gorilla Johnny (Taron Egerton), among others. Each artist has their own personal struggle to deal with, but they all come together to help Buster get a new lease on life for his theatre.
Sing 2 starts with a packed audience at the New Moon Theater enjoying a contemporary riff on Alice in Wonderland, filled with songs such as Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy. When a theatre scout dismisses their local hit as being too pedestrian, Buster and his gang of friends catch a bus to showbiz central Redshore City, to put on a show at the prestigious Crystal Tower Theater.
An assortment of shenanigans ensues but Buster manages to tap dance his way into getting the ruthless theatre impresario Jimmy Crystal (Bobby Cannavale) to produce his show. Couple of catches though – Buster needs to include Jimmy’s daughter Porsha (Halsey) in a starring role, convince famous recluse Clay Calloway (Bono) to perform and he’s got three weeks to do it all. Meanwhile Meena, Johnny and Rosita have to figure out their own issues, even as Buster and Gunter (Nick Kroll) come up with a script on the fly.
The stakes are high for Sing 2, and the movie delivers on many levels. There’s the fun of seeing how pop songs make it into the thematic explorations, or are performed as a straight-up medley in the audition process. The contrast between ever-optimistic Buster and temperamental Jimmy (whose boorish behaviour will remind older viewers of just how much leeway bully bosses used to get in the name of creating art) is a relevant subtext, besides driving the plot forward.
There are several visual gags and funny lines that had the kids giggling and adults guffawing away at the preview screening I attended. Granted, their reaction could just be related to the joy of being able to laugh collectively, but it brought a smile to my face several times.
Then, there are the power anthems. In some smart casting decisions, we have Halsey singing the Alicia Keys’ hit Girl on Fire and Scarlett Johansson and Bono belting out I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. My kids, whose musical choices these days range from K-pop to Ed Sheeran and The Kid LAROI, have been humming the 1987 U2 hit – much to my amusement. There’s even some Cancon by way of The Weeknd, Drake and Shawn Mendes.
Sing 2 does have its shortcomings. It works better if you’ve already watched the original, and know the narrative arcs of the characters. As a sequel, it doesn’t do much to give each character a chance to develop. And, given the number of songs worked into the script, there’s a music video quality to the film.
If you’re looking for some lighthearted distraction from the worries of the world right now, however, give Sing 2 a shot.
In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.